A 1960’s Shift Dress

Well hello, friends! Last week some of you might have gotten an e mail about this post which led to a webpage with an error message, and I do apologize. Apparently writing a post from one’s phone is prone to accidentally hitting the ‘publish’ button too early!

This summer, I (finally!) jumped on the Madmen bandwagon, and watched the first season. I’ve also been watching the Astronaut Wives Club, and That 70’s Show on Netflix. As a result, I’ve pretty much fallen in love with 60’s and 70’s styles! I also like that these were really pivotal times in history: the development of the US space program, 60’s counterculture, environmental activism, the Civil Rights Movement, the birth of modern computing and the growth of feminism…among so many other changes! The influence of culture on fashion of the times is equally interesting. I found a pattern based on a vintage pattern for the iconic 1960’s shift dress at JoAnn for $1 a while back (2013, I think), and it has a unique little info box in the instructions:Simplicity 0259: 1960's shift dress made in tropical print cottonSimplicity 0259: 1960's shift dress made in tropical print cotton

I wasn’t sure exactly when I’d make this dress, but then I sort of ‘rediscovered’ it in my pattern stash this summer! I had some tropical print cotton lawn fabric in my fabric stash which ended up being the perfect pairing.

The unfortunate part about this fabric is that I bought it when I first started making clothes. At that point I gauged how much I needed by essentially asking, “how much does it take to wrap around my body??” Yeah, that doesn’t work. Look at the back of the pattern, people! I had just enough to cut out the four main pattern pieces and facings. Of course it wasn’t that simple though, since I couldn’t fold the fabric in half to cut out the pattern pieces. I messed up, and cut out two left back pieces, instead of a left and a right! We’re human–mistakes happen. Fortunately, the two left back pieces are big enough that I can reuse them for something else (a cute tropical clutch, non?). Instead of ditching the project, I went with a solid green fabric for the back. Here are the final results:

Simplicity 0259: 1960's shift dress made in tropical print cotton

Simplicity 0259: 1960's shift dress made in tropical print cotton

Simplicity 0259: 1960's shift dress made in tropical print cotton


Let’s talk about shape for a minute. Remember my 2015 Wardrobe Architect project? The shift dress shape is definitely not in my preferred silhouettes. Still, I wanted to try it out because of my 60’s & 70’s love. In this pattern and fabric combination, I’m not sure it has won me over. It feels a bit stiff, and doesn’t really give me a shape that I like in the waist area. With a belt, it’s a little bit better. I do really like the skirt shape, so there is a little bit going for it!

Simplicity 0259: 1960's shift dress made in tropical print cotton

If I were to make the pattern again, or alter this garment, I would definitely do something about the excess fabric around my neck, small of my back and shoulders. See how there’s a little bit of fabric sticking out near my neck in all the above pictures? Many of the patterns that I make have the problem of being too big in the shoulders. I tend to take in the shoulder seam more than anything else. Perhaps I need to do an adjustment for narrow shoulders or a short torso? Any tips from other sewers? This picture is a little bit blurry, but gets the point across:

Simplicity 0259: 1960's shift dress made in tropical print cotton

Simplicity 0259: 1960's shift dress made in tropical print cotton

One of the things I’m most proud of in this garment is my use of bias bindings around the arm and neck holes! The pattern calls for facings, but I thought they would be a little too thick given that I had to use quilting cotton for the back pieces. I used this tutorial for bias bound arm holes. It worked spectacularly for the neck, too, and they look so pretty! This is definitely a technique I’ll be using more often. They’re easy, and look very well finished. Plus, there are lots of options for using contrasting colors and patterned bias tape.

Simplicity 0259: 1960's shift dress made in tropical print cotton

All in all, this is a dress that I’m very glad I made, but I’m doubtful I’ll wear very often. The excess fabric around the neck and the less than ideal shape are the cons, yet the fun tropical print and 60’s vibe are the definite pros! Has anyone else done a project they haven’t really loved in the end, but really enjoyed the process? What’s on your sewing table as the summer winds down?!

Simplicity 0259: 1960's shift dress made in tropical print cottonPattern: Simplicity 0259

Size: 14 (one size smaller than my measurements, based on the amount of ease)

Fabric: tropical print cotton lawn from Jo Ann’s (out of stock now) and a solid green Robert Kaufman quilting cotton

Alterations: Omitted the back and front facings, and used bias tape to bind the neck and arm holes instead


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